Yavapai County Farm Bureau President and Mortimer Farms co-Owner Sharla Mortimer, and Arizona Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Chair and Arid State Land & Ag Associates Owner Shawn Wood, both from Arizona, graduated last week from Women’s Communications Boot Camp hosted by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).

The intensive four-day course completed by 16 farm and ranch women leaders featured hands-on sessions related to public speaking, working with the media and messaging. Graduates will use their training in a variety of ways such as participating in local media opportunities to strategically support Farm Bureau’s policy work, sharing information with elected officials, and joining social media campaigns that spotlight today’s agriculture.

“It’s been only a few days since attending Women’s Communication Boot Camp and I am still processing the experience,” said Arizona’s Wood. “The program provides an executive and quite honestly elite-level training in all facets of communication. I feel honored and privileged to be selected and attend the AFBF program in D.C. with 15 highly qualified women in agriculture from around the country. I highly encourage any woman considering the program to apply, and even again, until you get selected! It is a golden opportunity of executive-level training with the best mentors, coaches and knowledge base in the country.” 

“I loved boot camp,” said Sharla Mortimer. “It is an amazing program and helped me to be a better advocate for agriculture. The American Farm Bureau Women’s Committee Communications Boot Camp is definitely worth the investment. This program has taught me how to share my story in an effective way for our community to help us to protect American Agriculture. I look forward to speaking with people about my life’s work.”

Shawn Wood

Sharla Mortimer


From the national perspective: “Through this training, we’re equipping women leaders with tools and skills they can use to effectively communicate about agriculture in their communities and for Farm Bureau on local, state and national levels,” said Isabella Chism, an Indiana row crop farmer and chair of the AFB Women’s Leadership Committee. 

Besides Arizona’s Mortimer and Wood, Boot Camp graduates included Jana Carroll, Arkansas; Roxi McCormick, Colorado; Jennifer Duvall, Georgia; Theresa Gottbrath, Indiana; Melissa Huggett, Kentucky; Kayla Griffith, Maryland; Barbara Rogers-Scharneck, Massachusetts; Stacey Lauwers, Michigan; Emma Alexander, Missouri; Allison Cooper, North Carolina; Carie Moore, North Dakota; Melanie Fink, Pennsylvania; Megan Jernigan, Tennessee; and Sarah Scyphers, Virginia.

“AFBF is proud to continue offering this training, which provides a framework for participants to increase their engagement with consumers and elected officials while exploring new leadership roles,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. 

This the 16th year of the program, which has 239 graduates and is open to all women involved in Farm Bureau. Another recent graduate from Arizona includes Pinal County farmer Nancy Caywood. 

Added Wood, “Two issues I speak professionally in agriculture about are estate management and taxes, this typically takes place over tailgates and on front porches. Women’s Communication Boot Camp provided a clearer picture and executive training to communicate concisely and confidently at any level of our government. I’m ready to voice the reasons to eliminate the estate tax for our farm and other farm and ranch owners to Congress if needed. It’s vital to the preservation of agriculture and the food security of our country, that tax rates remain reasonable, estate taxes are extinguished and tools like 1031 exchanges remain available.”  

The American Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee, in partnership with AFBF staff, hosts and provides training for Women’s Communications Boot Camp. An application process is used to select the participants. A fall session of Boot Camp will be held Oct. 31 – Nov. 3, with applications opening in June.